The world’s modern-day Ark doesn’t have to fend off huge waves and winds, but it is facing criticism, formal rejection and protests.
Nevertheless, just as the original, according to the Bible, successfully delivered its passenger load to dry ground, the modern version has successfully started serving the public.
At the Ark Encounter, which opened this week in a special VIP event and then for the general public, there is a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible. Spanning 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high, it is described as the largest timber frame structure in the world.
Along with the ark itself, there are “jaw-dropping” exhibits, a zoo and more, the organizers say.
The path to completion wasn’t easy.
WND reported when “secularists” put several obstacles in its path of the project developed by Answers in Genesis and its CEO, Ken Ham.
“The local secularists have revealed their true motive with their proposed billboard campaign. They ultimately want to stop people going to the Ark Encounter, which is a Christian, family friendly attraction that will have a great economic impact on the state and add jobs,” Ham said some months ago.
His comments came in reaction to complaints to the media by the Tri-State Freethinkers, which wanted to post billboards with messages condemning the Ark Encounter.
One local billboard company declined to post them, and a second company, which puts billboards on trucks, also declined.
The Freethinkers wanted the message to say: “Genocide and Incest Park: Celebrating 2,000 years of myths.”
“It begs the question: What are the secularists so fearful of? The Christians I know don’t try to stop people from going to tourist attractions that might present an evolutionary worldview. In fact, we will be promoting all the major tourist attractions in the region even though we may not necessarily agree with everything stated at each place,” Ham said.
“These Freethinkers simply don’t want Christians to have the full freedom to present their beliefs in the culture,” he said.
In a blog on the AIG website, Ham recounted the long history of opposition his organization has faced, including the opposition to the nearby Creation Museum.
“When we set out to build the Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky in 1996, a local atheist group vigorously opposed us. As a result, the then-Fiscal Court ruled against our rezoning, and we had to find a different museum property. We found the piece that the museum is now built on – a much better location, right off exit 11 on Interstate 275, and we built a much bigger museum. The atheists protested outside the Creation Museum on the day it was opened in 2007. Over the years, they did all they could to try to keep us from opening a museum,” he wrote.
There also was a dispute over whether the project would be allowed to participate in a state program that rebates part of the sales taxes generated by tourist attractions. A federal judge eventually ruled it could.
“These atheists had wanted to stop us from building a museum that eventually provided thousands of jobs in the area (including about 400 staff at the Answers in Genesis/Creation Museum/Hebron design facilities). They wanted to stop the opening of a facility that has added at least $60 million every year to the regional economy since it opened in 2007, based on a formula provided by the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Creation Museum has now been open for almost nine years,” Ham explained.
“The point is that atheists and other secularist groups (including the Tri-State Freethinkers) apparently would rather stop Kentucky from receiving this tremendous economic and job-creation boost that the Ark will bring, than being tolerant of Christians trying to have free exercise of their religion by building Christian-themed attractions. They really would rather hurt Kentucky than have a Christian group build such world-class attractions open to everyone who chooses to visit,” he wrote.
In the rebate dispute, critics had claimed since the project is Christian, the state legally could discriminate against it.
But U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove in the Eastern District of Kentucky affirmed the Ark Encounter’s right to participate in a program.
The ruling concluded “the Commonwealth’s exclusion of AIG from participating in the program for the reasons stated – i.e., on the basis of AIG’s religious beliefs, purpose, mission, message, or conduct, is a violation of AIG’s rights under the First Amendment to the federal Constitution.”
The judge also affirmed AIG’s right to use a religious preference in its hiring, specifically noting that “Title VII includes exceptions” for which AIG qualifies.
More than $90 million was raised for land purchase, infrastructure, exhibit construction and the building of the park’s centerpiece: a massive, full scale re-creation of Noah’s Ark. It is expected to draw more than 1 million visitors a year.
Here’s a report on the opening: